The ‘Deep Slate: May 2009 Edition

[Ed. Note: 10/31/2015: This “post” was originally an email I sent to my friends on 05/19/2009. I have posted it today in 2015, and backdated for archival/search purposes]

(my apologies if you get this multiple times & if you don’t want to get this type of stuff from me, just let me know)

Hey folks –

Usually, I write two emails for the ‘Deep Slate, one for just the simple list of my voting recommendations & another which is the detailed “whys & wherefores” , however for tomorrow’s special election that won’t be necessary. The two bits will fit in this handy email 🙂 I’ve included the boilerplate “who I am section” at the bottom for those of you who are receiving this who don’t know me.

Please feel free to forward this far & wide….

LIST: 1A-1F: no


California is broken. We have failed as a state to govern ourselves. That is the big picture. These 6 ballot measures are just the symptoms of that tremendous FAIL. It is true that if these measures fail, we are set for a world of hurt. If the measures pass we get another world of hurt, but perhaps worse in the longer term. Of these measures, Prop 1B is perhaps the one with the most appeal, but fundamentally all are the broken results of a broken process.

These measures grew out of the fact that the CA state legislature is bound by law (a horrible law) that any budget must be agreed upon by a 2/3 majority. This means that the Republicans have just enough votes to hold the entire budget process hostage and push their agenda of harshly limiting state government & decimating the taxation that is the only way to fund things we need. Democrats, fearing the shutdown of the state government and loss of all funding to critical programs, caved and agreed to what is essentially a “gun-to-the-head” set of deals represented by these measures.

So what to do with this horrible horrible choice? The CA League of Conservation Voters and many Democratic leaders urge that voters vote yes to keep things from getting much worse in the near term. The SF Bay Guardian argues that the system is broken and that Prop 1A in particular (the flagship of the set) will cause long term damage to our ability to navigate funding important programs. Further, various sources argue that 1A would lock us into a funding structure based today’s budget and it’s already brutal cuts to education and other key programs.

The fact remains that if we pass these 6 measures, we will still have a brutal budget shortfall to solve. If we don’t pass them, the budget shortfall will be significantly worse. But, I fear that if we do pass them we will just be setting ourselves us for long term pain in addition to the short term. This is a lose-lose situation I’m afraid – but I’m tired of “too big to fail”, “we have no choice” scenarios.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m much more comfortable making recommendations about local issues rather than state ones, but for what it is worth, I’m voting no on all of the state ballot measures.


The best way out of this mess seems to be an attempt to fix CA government by rewriting our state constitution & attempting to narrow-focus that effort to dealing with budget and governance issues (not policy). The always smart (though unabashedly center-right) Economist, had this great article last week on CA’s problems:

Thanks again to the number of folks who have asked me for my opinions. I know I say it every time but it is quite true: I really am honored. Any questions or flames can, of course, be addressed to me….

Ok – so to figure out how to value (or devalue :-)) my opinions you should know the following:

• My opinions come from my experience in local politics over the past 13 years & the tons of candidate interviews I’ve done with the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters & the SF Bicycle Coalition & all the lobbying I’ve done at City Hall, etc etc…. As you know I don’t get a dime for this, I’m a software engineer by day, and a political activist in my spare time.
• The 3 biggest “norths” of my political compass are environmentalism, social justice issues & good government (reform type) issues.
• I’m President of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters & on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. While my views are definitely shaped by my activities in these organizations, my endorsements do NOT represent their views.
• I’m basically an idealist, an optimist, and a humanist.
• In some of these races it is a matter of picking between flawed options….
• Ballot measures are REALLY a bad way to govern. Most of the things done in ballot measures SHOULD be done in the normal legislature, where they are easier to fix if they turn out wrong. Another problem is that you have to boil complex issues down to yes/no votes – which rarely is a good idea. But this is what we have, so keep in mind that some good ideas make bad ballot propositions & a lot bad ideas can be made to be sound like good sense in ballot initiative form because the devil is often in the details. And also note that often, these measures are grey – there is often a lot of balancing going on…..
• 90% of my experience & knowledge is about local issues – so understand that state issues are a little greyer for me unless I say otherwise. Thus, some of the endorsements (as marked) below are taken from compiling what the California League of Conservation Voters, the SF Bay Guardian, and the Sierra Club have had to say.

To find your polling place:

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